A CDFA advisory board deliberated a new proposal that would allow the Healthy Soils Program to provide incentives for farmers who are transitioning to organic agriculture.

Up to about $4,000 would potentially help individual farmers cover the costs of technical assistance and developing a transition plan. Under CDFA’s priorities, the funding would likely benefit small or socially disadvantaged farmers who could not shoulder the costs otherwise.

Yet the current budget allocated no funding for the program this year and 2021 is likely to bring the same, according to Don Cameron, who sits on the advisory board as well as the governor’s economic task force.

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The California Farm Bureau argued CDFA should instead look at “the bigger picture” of farmers dealing with climate change mitigation and resiliency. Policy advocate Taylor Roschen said CDFA should create a separate climate-smart program to incentivize planning, whether it’s for transitioning to organic or to carbon farming or planning for land conservation or nutrient management. Newsom’s executive order on biodiversity would fall under this as well, she added.

“Too often our farmers and ranchers and dairy men and women have to be reactionary, rather than proactive,” Roschen said.